Barnumize

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From the surname of P. T. Barnum, a 19th century American showman who co-founded the Barnum & Bailey Circus, combined with the suffix -ize.

Verb[edit]

Barnumize (third-person singular simple present Barnumizes, present participle Barnumizing, simple past and past participle Barnumized)

  1. To enliven something, especially a spectacle or attraction.
    • 1922, "Reinhardt at Salzburg", The New York Times, 3 September 1922:
      There is nothing unusual at first appearance of this man who Barnumized the Classics and shook them and modern stage production into a new vitality.
  2. To dumb down, cheapen, or vulgarize something, especially to create entertainment that appeals to coarse or unsophisticated tastes.
    • 1983, John Husar, "Collins, LaPaglia save fight for ring", Chicago Tribune, 19 March 1983:
      Kushner expects his boxers to make nasty remarks, scripted or otherwise, to Barnumize their sport in the manner of Bob Luce's version of wrestling promising gore for the paying fools.
  3. To promote with bombast, exaggeration, or outright falsehood; to hype or sensationalize.
    • 1864, James Russell Lowell, "General McClellan's Report", in Political Essays, Houghton, Mifflin and Company (1890):
      They went to work deliberately to Barnumize their prospective candidate. No prima donna was ever more thoroughly exploited by her Hebrew impresario. The papers swarmed with anecdotes, incidents, sayings. Nothing was too unimportant, and the new commander-in-chief pulled on his boots by telegram from Maine to California, and picked his teeth by special dispatch from the Associated Press.
  4. To obtain money through fraudulent or deceitful means; to swindle or con.
    • 1927, "Barnum Had Tact, Regardless", The Southeast Missourian, 19 October 1927:
      Looking in retrospect over his career, old P. T. Barnum was equally frank, but he had a way of making people unaware of the fact that they were being buncoed while the buncoing was going on. And the Barnumizing operation of extracting money from the curious will be more successful today if it is made less palapably[sic] painful.
  5. To spread inaccurate or false information.
    • 1935, Mrs. Walter Ferguson, "Being Unhappy", The Pittsburgh Press, 23 August 1935:
      The psychiatrists are getting beyond their depth when they begin computing feminine unhappiness. So when we read that some professor finds 98 per cent of us drooping with sorrow, I think we may safely charge him with Barnumizing.
  6. To seek or attract attention, especially through ostentation.
    • 1926, Glenn Frank, "On Pretending to Die", Youngstown Vindicator, 19 March 1926:
      Mangin turned himself into an eccentric figure, and Barnumized the business of selling pencils.
      "He attracted attention," says Mr. Dreier, "by driving about the streets in an ornamented carriage drawn by two bay horses.
      "With the help of a servant he changed his clothes in plain sight, substituting a medieval costume for his business suit. []

Related terms[edit]